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Do not give in, Allawi urges Egypt

By Atul Aneja

MANAMA, JULY 24. The fate of the three Indian truck drivers kidnapped in Iraq continues to remain uncertain despite continuation of direct negotiations with the kidnappers.

Analysts here point out that the militant group, Holders of the Black Banners, which has abducted six persons including the three Indians, has, in its latest video emphasised that the Kuwaiti employers of the kidnapped individuals must pay compensation to those families in Fallujah whose members had been killed while fighting American forces.

The group on Friday had extended the deadline for the fulfilment of its demands by 48 hours. The kidnappers in their first statement on Wednesday had said that they would begin beheading each of its captives every 72 hours, if their demands were not met. The group has sought a total withdrawal of all persons of those nations whose citizens it has abducted.

Faced with the spate of kidnappings, which included the abduction of an Egyptian diplomat on Friday, the Iraqi interim Prime Minister, Iyad Allawi, has urged Cairo not to bow to the kidnappers. "The only way to deal with terrorists is to bring them to justice," Mr. Allawi said during a visit to Syria.

Gunmen abducted Mohammed Mamdouh Qutb as he left a mosque in the Iraqi capital on Friday. A militant group said it took Mr. Qutb hostage in response to Egypt's offer of security aid to Iraq's Government. Egypt had earlier offered military equipment and training for Iraqi security forces.

Fresh kidnap

Meanwhile, in a fresh kidnapping, the director of an Iraqi construction company was picked up by armed men as he drove to work on Saturday, an Interior Ministry spokesman said. In a related development, Iraqi guerillas today blew up part of an oil pipeline north of Baghdad. The bomb was placed under the pipeline between Dour and Samarra in Salhuddin province, Iraqi officials said.

Reuters reports:

An explosion set fire to the oil pipeline north of Baghdad today, witnesses and an oil refinery official said.

Witness Ali Mohammed Samarrai said he heard the blast and saw the pipeline catch fire at a point just southwest of the town of Samarra, 100 km north of Baghdad.

An official at Iraq's main northern oil refinery at Baiji, 180 km north of Baghdad, said the blaze was on a pipeline that carries oil from the refinery to Baghdad.

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